Come From The Heart

by Amber F. Drabble

ATF AU (I even live in Denver)

Disclaimer: Don't own 'em, never will, please don't sue. The cat is evil and the Mustang is cursed. In fact, I think the cat may have cursed the Mustang.

Synopsis: Believing in loyalty sometimes is fulfilled, after all. (Written by a New York Yankees fan who is left to wonder just exactly what happened?) I guess you could say this falls under PWP?

You've got to sing, sometimes,
Like you don't need the money.
Love, sometimes,
Like you'll never be hurt.
You've got to dance, dance, dance,
Like nobody's watching.
It's gotta come from the heart
If you want it to work.

'Come From The Heart' - Kathy Mattea
'Willow In The Wind'
Mercury 1989

October 2003

As Aaron Boone's home run went sailing off into the left field stands, JD collapsed into a sobbing heap on the floor, his half-drunk Sam Adams spilling onto the carpet. Shaking his head, Buck bent over and picked the kid up, slinging JD over his shoulder in a fireman's hold. They disappeared down the hallway as Josiah returned from the kitchen with a damp cloth.

"So the Sox lose again, and I'm another year older. You know, I really hope they do break the Curse before I die."

"So quit gettin' shot, maybe? Come on, Ezra, turn on SportsCenter, I wanta see th' Stars score." Vin was rooting through the detritus on the coffee table, looking to see if there was any chips and salsa left worth bothering with.

"I wasn't the last one in the hospital, Brother Vin."

Finding what he was looking for Vin sat back, scowling as a Star went down under a pile of San Jose Shark sweaters. "That wasn't work-related."

Sometime during the summer, 2004 ...

The screen door slammed and JD zoomed into view, panting and sweaty, with more than the beginnings of a sunburn. Of course, JD could get burned under the fluorescent lights at the office, so that he was approaching the shade of a just-about-done lobster under the clear blue mountain sky of Chris' place wasn't surprising. He yanked up the long tail of his Patriots Super Bowl T-shirt--he always bought T-shirts that looked like they'd be a better fit on Buck--and used it to wipe his face before peering at the TV. "What's up?"

Vin was pinned prey on the couch thanks to a bootlegger named Bossange, who hadn't taken kindly to having his operation busted up. Vin's internal magnet had attracted three bullets. "ESPN. One o' th' specials fer th' 25th anniversary."

On the screen, a scruffy-looking Barry Pepper wearing a Yankees cap was grinning into the camera.

"Did you know that studies have proven that people with a strong attachment to their chosen team have better psychological health overall? It's true! <Grin> Well, except for late October in the Greater Boston area but, well, you know ... " Barry walked off camera, then ducked back in, grinning again. "Kidding!"

There was a throw pillow on the couch that Buck had gotten Chris for his birthday, as a gag gift. It read, 'You'll always be my best friend, you know too much!' Vin wasn't surprised as it went flying at the TV. "Ha-ha-ha, Mr. Smart-Ass. We'll see who's laughing this October."

A bellow came from outside. "Hey, JD? Thought you were gettin' the beers!"

"Yeah, yeah, keep your jeans on, Buck. You want somethin' long as I'm in here, Vin?"

"Can't, pain meds. Wait, is there any o' th' Livewire I brought up last weekend left?"

September ...

"I just can't find a way to beat them. I mean, I don't know what to do, except to tip my cap and call the Yankees my daddies."

"Buck, GRAB HIM!" Chris' shout preceded a desperate scuffle between the couch and the TV, as Buck tried to keep JD from throwing a side table through the TV screen, following Pedro Martinez's self-derogatory comment. After several minutes of "Catch his arm!" and "You got his other leg?" and "Damn, he's right quick, ain't he?", Ezra's drawl flowed over the room.

"Really, Mr. Dunne, such displays of temper are most unbecoming."

"Says the man whose Braves have been in the playoffs every year for the past fourteen. Last time the Braves didn't make it I was still in grade school." JD panted and squirmed, but Buck, Nathan and Josiah weren't turning loose for anything.

"And if they make it this year it will be a miracle, I assure you. The breaking up of the Assassin Squad is surely a sign of the impending Apocalypse."

Nathan shook his head from his position behind and to one side of JD, where he held the younger man in a half-nelson. "Ya all goin' down this year. Armageddon's not stoppin' St. Louis now. And no!" As Ezra perked into a devilish grin. "I ain't puttin' money on it!"

October ...

It started after the Red Sox beat Anaheim in the division games. At first it wasn't really noticeable, given JD's naturally optimistic personality and active nature. Besides, he always got a little extra-jumpy this time of year, at least until Boston performed their annual swan dive. After that, he did his best impression of Eeyore until the sugar rush from the Halloween candy kicked in.

Knowing the Sox had once again drawn the Yankees in the league series after the Yanks eliminated Oakland, Chris braced himself for the usual crash, especially after the Sox went down 3 games to none. No team had ever come back from a three games to none deficit, and Gonillo from Tech Support had made a point of sending JD a e-mail concerning a factoid he'd seen after SportsCenter one night, which claimed that no team whose city hosted the Democratic National Convention had ever won the World Series that year. Chris hadn't been surprised to see Gonillo's VW Sirocco being hauled out of the garage on a flatbed truck later that day, and when Travis came around asking questions, he'd begged ignorance.

Then Boston came back. In two games that stretched into the wee hours and had JD chugging Mountain Dew like it was water and propping his eyelids up with two by fours, David Ortiz gave the Red Sox faithful reason to hope. Casey just laughed when JD called her and told her that if they ever had kids, the first one was going to be named David, no matter what.

The National League games weren't a problem. Ezra, Nathan and Vin traded the same $50 back and forth over the course of two weeks, accompanied by good-natured insults and mock snarling. What was there to worry about? If the Yankees won, the National League team--which really looked like it was going to be the Cardinals--would lose. If the Red Sox made it, the Cards would win. Rooting for your team was fine, but there was no need to get so stressed about it. And as often as their internal magnets attracted flying pieces of metal, neither Ezra nor Vin were all that inclined to antagonize Nathan in any case.

"They gotta go back ta th' Stadium, JD. Th' Sox got 'bout as much chance as a minnow swallowin' a whale in th' Stadium." Vin shoved a $20 at Ezra with a muttered, "Screw ya, see if I bother next time yer yappin' in yer mike fer help." Ezra pocketed the bill with a great white shark's toothy smile and a pleasant, "Pleasure doing business with you, Mr. Tanner. I look forward to the Cowboys' future this season."

"Nope, the Yankees are cooked. I got a real good feeling this year."

"You sure that's not the scrambled eggs from this morning, kid? I really think those eggs might've been in the fridge a while too long." Buck took one sip of his coffee and choked. "Jeez, Vin! I thought I told ya to quit usin' the old motor oil outta your Jeep to make the coffee!"

Vin rolled his eyes and barked like a seal. "Hey, Cowboy? Did he complain this much when y'all was in th' teams?"

"Worse. JD, you drink more than a six-pack of that Code Red today, I'm chaining you to your desk and making you do this month's financial reports."

"I think we oughtta glue his pants to the chair." Nathan offered. "He keeps up like he's been doin', we're gonna be peeling him down off the dark side of Bajor."

For the first time since meeting JD, Chris was grateful for a Game 7 in an American League Championship Series. Game 7 was always Boston's downfall. The Sox would lose, JD would crash until Halloween, and things would go back to normal.

Only ... the Sox won. For the first time since JD Dunne was four years old, the Boston Red Sox were going to the World Series. And they were playing Nathan's St. Louis Cardinals. Nathan tracked down a toy store that sold plush owls and put one on his computer monitor. When Ezra asked why, Nathan grinned. "For Bob 'Hoot' Gibson, the best pitcher the Cards ever had. He beat the Sox in '67"

Game 1 arrived with enough snarky comments between JD and Nathan to fill a season's worth of Smallville episodes. After Game 2, JD left a 24-pack of toilet paper on Nathan's desk, with a note attached that read, 'Crying Towels.' By Game 3, Chris asked Travis if the regional office in Alaska needed a medic for temporary assignment, and if the office in Honolulu needed a surveillance expert. Anything to get JD and Nathan away from each other. Nathan's comment that Boston outfielder Johnny Damon looked like a hired thug from a cheap Western had incited a near-riot that day, followed by JD's--admittedly risky, given Walker's status as an ex-Colorado Rockie--retort that he was surprised Larry Walker didn't need a wheelchair to get around Busch Stadium's right field. And that was all before Vin squinted at Nathan, shook his head and muttered, "Man, yer guys beat th' Astros ta git in this mess?"

And the fact that the New England Patriots had just notched their 21st win, against the Jets, wasn't helping. JD was flying. The only damper on his good mood--and it was a small one--was the continuing lockout in the NHL, which kept from him his beloved Bruins. But the NBA preseason brought the Celtics.

"Ya know if Boston loses t'night, we're gonna have ta check JD inta th' funny farm. He'll wanta jump off th' Qwest buildin'. Last year was bad enough." Vin stepped off the elevator, grinning as he saw Cuervo the cat sprawled across the Jeep's hood.

"You're miscounting, Vin. If the Sox lose tonight, it just means the series is going to Game 5." Chris checked the Ram for pawprints as Vin scooped Cuervo off the Jeep, scratching his ears before setting him down. Miaowing a farewell the tabby dashed off.

"Ya sure Inez is gonna let us back in? She looked pretty ticked t'other night."

"Ezra said he called her up and got things smoothed over." Translation, as they all knew: Ezra offered to pay for the damages JD and Nathan had incurred after an impromptu rasslin' match following Game 3. Chris wasn't breathing a word to Buck, but he thought that 'smoothing things over' included Ezra taking Inez out to dinner.

By the fifth inning, JD would have been swinging from the chandelier if the Saloon had had one. Johnny Damon's leadoff home run had been an early Christmas gift, and Derek Lowe was pitching lights out. Bronson Arroyo and Alan Embree kept the party rolling, with Manny Ramirez, Orlando Cabrera and David Ortiz providing the defense while Trot Nixon padded Damon's homer with a two-run double. There was one anxious moment in the ninth when a comeback ball went between Keith Foulke's legs, bringing back too many nightmares of the endlessly replayed image of the Bill Buckner play from 1986. Though JD had only been four at the time, ESPN Classic seemed to replay that game with a demonic enjoyment.

And then it happened. The last Cardinal hitter, Edgar Renteria, slapped another comeback ball to Foulke, and this time he caught it, breaking to his left off the mound toward first. He flipped to Doug Mientkiewicz, who dashed to first and made the last out.

It was over.

The Curse of the Bambino was broken.

The Boston Red Sox were the 2004 World Series Champions.

Later, all would agree that the "YYYYYYYEEEEEEESSSSSSS!!!!!!!" JD let out easily beat the similar shouts of victory from Chris and Buck after the Broncos had beaten the Green Bay Packers to win the 1998 Super Bowl. The kid bought a round for the whole place, even Nathan, who had to admit that the Cardinals had been thoroughly outplayed.

Josiah sat back chuckling as JD bounced around the room hugging and backslapping and generally acting like a five-year-old who'd just emptied his Halloween treat sack in one sitting--or a twenty-two-year-old whose baseball team had just won the World Series after an eighty-six year drought.

"So now it's over. And surprise, surprise, I lived to see it."

"One thing I cannot fathom." Ezra mused. "The rallying cry of the Boston faithful has always been, 'Wait 'til next year.' Well, quite clearly next year has arrived. So what happens ... next year?"

"We get to listen to JD gloat all year, that's what."

By the time Inez begged last call, 'plowed' was merely a mildly descriptive word with little true relevance to JD's physical condition. He finally passed out just as Buck poured him into Lady's cab.

"He's off until Monday, but I expect to see him bright and early Monday morning." Chris ordered. Buck grinned.

"He'll be there. At least he can't make it from here to Boston and back to go to the victory parade."

"Yeah, thank God. See you this weekend." Buck tossed Chris a quick salute and shifted Lady into gear.

Walking back to the Ram, Chris couldn't help but chuckle, thinking about the victory party he'd been to after the Broncos win in 1998. He'd woken up the next day with his head splitting open, knowing he hadn't been that drunk since ... a sudden thought occurred to him as he swung the door open and stepped up onto the running board. With a slight grin, he looked up at the eclipsing moon. Sarah had been a Red Sox fan.

"You wouldn't have had anything to do with this, would you?"

A playful breeze danced through the Saloon's parking lot, carrying the faint sound of a woman's laughter.

"Yeah, I thought so."

Inside, Inez looked at the ungodly mess. "Por favor, don't ever let that team win again."

JD showed up Monday morning, all right, wearing a T-shirt bearing the Red Sox logo, the World Series Champion logo, and the words 'Now I Can Die In Peace!' Nathan rolled his eyes.

"What 'bout all those other times ya get hurt?"

Grinning, JD shrugged. "I would have had to find something to haunt, of course."